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Tag: Atlanta (page 2 of 3)

Miller Union

Walk into Miller Union, and you will be struck by the abundant light, huge windows, wooden tables, glass cabinets and high ceilings, all contributing to a classy-rustic urban vibe. The assortment of Lodge cast iron pans adorning the wall is eye-catching. I caught sight of a tiny guitar-shaped cast iron pan – cute! The servers are dressed in blue shirts and jeans, classic and simple. Our friendly server (my boss loved her voice) mentioned that most of the ingredients used at the restaurant were locally sourced. As she went over the drinks menu, she told us that Miller Union stocks Mexican Coca-Cola that contains cane sugar.

Miller Union isn’t exactly known for its vegetarian options. You can see the sole vegetarian entree on the menu, the Seasonal Vegetable Plate. A couple of the starters are vegetarian too. Or so I think. I didn’t exactly find out (it was a farewell dinner for a colleague and I wasn’t keen on starting a long-drawn conversation with the server).

We got a couple of starters for everyone to share – the Feta Snack and the Butter Bean Hummus with Housemade Lavash. I don’t seem to have pictures of the Butter Bean Hummus and Lavash… hmmm. For the entree, I got the Seasonal Plate. Dessert was a selection of three kinds of ice-cream sandwiches – Chocolate Brownie, Basil, Almond Toffee. I guess I should have picked Basil, but I asked for Almond Toffee instead. My gluttonous gene trumps the experimental one most of the times, sigh.

The Feta Snack comprised a dip of feta cheese, sour cream and cracked pepper served with a selection of baby carrots, turnips, beets. Surprisingly, the dip wasn’t too sour (as most feta dishes tend to be). I wouldn’t call this dish remarkable but it was a good start to the meal. I wish I had a picture of the Hummus-Lavash plate… sigh. The hummus was delicious, not too sour or garlicky, just perfect. I wonder if it contained any chickpeas at all. The Lavash was flecked with sea salt. It was crisp and crunchy, almost like a cracker.

My entree was strictly so-so. I think the vegetables (green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, beets) were steamed and salted, that’s all. Plus there was the fried okra. Agreed it is a plate of seasonal vegetables, and I assume the intent is to celebrate the produce of the moment. Yet, it felt too small, too plain for an entree. Maybe an accompanying biscuit would have ramped it up? Or a light olive oil dressing with herbs, perhaps? Or maybe some fresh beans/peas would have made all the difference.

Dessert was substantial. The ice-cream came nestled between two Graham crackers that held up remarkably well, zero sogginess. The Almond Toffee ice-cream was fairly decent. It wasn’t overly sweet although I wished for a stronger almond flavor. Pretty big-sized for a dessert portion… bigger than my entree!

I wish Miller Union would expand its vegetarian offerings…

Miller Union
999 Brady Ave NW, Atlanta GA 30318
678-733-8550
http://www.millerunion.com/site/ 

Farmer to Table

“The soil in Middle Georgia is so fertile, they say that if you stand at a spot for more than 5 minutes, your twin will sprout up next to you!”

That hilarious quote can be attributed to GA-based landscape designer and artist, James Farmer. I attended his presentation ‘Farmer to Table’ at the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens last week. Farmer grew up on a farm in small-town Georgia, moved to Auburn for college. In his presentation, he recalled his college roommates who ate out daily. Farmer couldn’t see how anyone could derive any pleasure out of eating out every day. One day, he began cooking a traditional Southern meal in their shared apartment – fried chicken, cornbread et al. His roommates were blown by the mouthwatering smells emanating from their tiny kitchen. One of them called his mother, and within minutes, Farmer was on the phone with her… explaining his special recipe, sharing his tips and tricks, answering her questions.

Gardening, cooking, decorating and entertaining are interconnected with each other, as Farmer explained. The notion of ‘farm-to-table’ may be a new one in the foodie circles of today, but in most traditional cultures, it was simply the way to be. Grow fruits and vegetables, pick them when ripe, cook with them, preserve them for future use.

My family hails from Kerala, the southernmost state in India. Lush and verdant, Kerala is a paradise of gently swaying coconut palms, acres and acres of green paddy fields, flowing streams, orchards bursting with mango and jackfruit trees, tea plantations, peppercorn groves, majestic temples and golden sunshine. Although I grew up in Mumbai, there is a special corner in my heart reserved for Kerala. I often remark, “You can take the girl outta Kerala, you cannot take Kerala outta her!”

In summer, the fruit trees are in full bloom, showering their bountiful produce in such generous quantities that one simply cannot keep up. You eat as much as you can until there comes a point when you have to give up. There is such a thing as too many mangoes, as I realized sadly one hot summer. Then begins the process of making pickles and preserves, as a means to use up the excess fruit. Bananas are chopped into rounds/slices and fried in coconut oil into crispy golden banana chips. So also with jackfruit, plantains, tapioca and more. The fragrance of coconut oil perfumes the entire home and its environs… Mmm. Ripe jackfruit and mangoes are also made into preserves, cooked with ghee and sweetened with jaggery.

Every region has (or used to have) its methods to store produce and use it over the entire year. These are tried and tested techniques, completely indigenous to the region’s climate, growing conditions and crops. Unfortunately, even in cultures as ancient as India, these methods are dying, as people develop a fancy for unseasonal fruit and vegetables. Think exorbitantly priced apples from Australia, mealy and limp, or tasteless kiwi fruit from New Zealand… Sigh. Hopefully, things will come back full circle and folks will go back to the traditional techniques of food storage and preservation.

Table Centerpiece

Farmer spoke about how important it was for young people to hear the message from someone like himself, someone they could identify with, someone from the same generation who spoke the same language. The younger generation world over is concerned with appearing hip and modern. That pursuit need not be divorced from age-old practices linked with food and consumption, as one learns from Farmer’s presentation.

Soaking up the South at the Decorators’ Show House & Gardens

What does it mean to be a Southerner? Obviously, I am not qualified to comment. Although I am from the South… South India, that is! However, living in Georgia the last eight years has given me a certain perspective of the South, its culture and traditions, symbols and markers. Actually, I live in Atlanta, and there will be many who say that Atlanta is hardly representative of the South. That may very well be true. However, even a city as diverse and metropolitan as Atlanta can show an outsider (like me) what the South is about. It comes across in the lilting accent of the cashier at the supermarket, the ‘honey’ tossed around casually in conversation, the omnipresent sweet tea dispensers, profusion of peach recipes in summer, the constant references to the civil rights movement, the reverent air that always accompanies the name ‘Dr. Martin Luther King,’ and more. I must admit, I am only starting to scratch the surface of what the South is all about, and my sources are primarily grad school readings, pop culture references, and a good deal of observation and introspection. Maybe the South is a state of mind, after all?

Anyway, even I could see that the South was on proud and resplendent display at the Decorators’ Show House & Gardens in Atlanta this year. This year’s event featured the Knollwood House, a magnificent estate and home designed by renowned architect Phillip Trammell Schutze. Twenty-seven designers styled the rooms and exteriors of the house in traditional Southern style combined with modern stylish elements. I came to know about this event from a dear friend who thought that it might make for an interesting post for the blog. I contacted one of the coordinators who kept aside a ticket for me. And that’s how I landed up at the Knollwood House on a lovely Thursday morning.

Knollwood House

The house is truly beautiful! Each room flowing into the other, well-lit and airy spaces opening to the lawns and pool and gazebo, little secret alcoves hidden within each room, cute little touches scattered throughout, warm and homely yet cool and stylish… The kitchen is spectacular with shiny appliances, large windows, expansive counters and shelving. There is a wonderful solarium with stone floors, floor length windows, giant indoor plants and comfortable settees. My favorite room, I think. Then there is the intimate little butler’s pantry, the sprawling family room on the top level with wood floors and baseball paraphernalia, the teenager’s room in lilac bling, the cosy and comfortable library, powder room for the gentleman and the lady, the elegant guest retreat… and more.

I am not one for giant houses. Yet I fell in love with the homeliness, comfort, warmth and elegance that Knollwood conveyed. That, I think, is a tribute to the amazing designers and artists who truly understood the soul of the house and channeled it into their work. I heard that a family had purchased the estate and would move in shortly. Here’s wishing the future residents of Knollwood many happy days in their lovely new home!

Photography wasn’t allowed indoors but there was a designers sale of items outdoors.

Antique designer photo frames

Designer Curios and Antiques

Next up, ‘Farmer to Table,’ a special presentation by James Farmer at the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens. There had to be a food connection for me to land up at an event like this, don’t you think so?

Chilled Tomato Gazpacho from Metrofresh

Chilled Tomato Gazpacho

Here is the Chilled Tomato Gazpacho from Metrofresh that was part of my lunch yesterday. I haven’t tasted a Gazpacho before and all I know is that it’s a soup served cold. It tastes like a liquefied version of tomato salsa, not too tart or sour or sweet. A mild taste of onion and garlic, herby flavor of fresh cilantro, smooth texture and nice mouthfeel.

P mentioned that it should have contained cucumbers as well. But I don’t think this one did.